In this activity students create a super simple motor using an electromagnet.

This activity is an example of a simple motor powered by an electromagnetic field. Students will use some basic hardware to build a motor with some (nail) head-spinning results!

Like any motor, this motor depends on the interaction between a permanent magnet and an electromagnet. The permanent magnet is the little super magnet stuck to the screw (as in the image below). The "electromagnet" is the magnetic field created by the current flowing sideways through the magnet.

Objectives

• Describe the effect of applying electricity to a magnetic object.

Materials

• Per Student:
Round “neodymium” (NdFeB) magnet
* Neodymium magnets can be purchased at hardware stores (such as Lee Valley) or office supply stores. Also called rare earth magnet or “supermagnets”
Steel nail or screw
D-cell battery
Pure copper wire (If the wire has iron in it it will be attracted to the magnet and the motor will not work)
.

Key Questions

• What happens if you stick the nail to the other end of the battery?
• What happens if you turn the magnet upside down?

What To Do

1. Touch the magnet to the head of the nail, they will stick due to magnetism.
2. Touch the pointy end of the nail to the bottom of the battery. It will stick because the magnet touching the end of the nail transforms the nail itself into a temporary magnet. Let it dangle from the point.
3. With one hand, hold one end of the wire to the top of the battery and with the other hand, hold the other end of the wire to the side of the magnet. The magnet and nail will rotate.

Extensions

• This is called a homopolar motor. Investigate the physics of a homopolar motor in more detail here.

Survivors

Artist: Jeff Kulak

Jeff is a senior graphic designer at Science World. His illustration work has been published in the Walrus, The National Post, Reader’s Digest and Chickadee Magazine. He loves to make music, ride bikes, and spend time in the forest.

Egg BB

Artist: Jeff Kulak

Jeff is a senior graphic designer at Science World. His illustration work has been published in the Walrus, The National Post, Reader’s Digest and Chickadee Magazine. He loves to make music, ride bikes, and spend time in the forest.

Comet Crisp

Artist: Jeff Kulak

Jeff is a senior graphic designer at Science World. His illustration work has been published in the Walrus, The National Post, Reader’s Digest and Chickadee Magazine. He loves to make music, ride bikes, and spend time in the forest.

T-Rex and Baby

Artist: Michelle Yong

Michelle is a designer with a focus on creating joyful digital experiences! She enjoys exploring the potential forms that an idea can express itself in and helping then take shape.

Buddy the T-Rex

Artist: Michelle Yong

Michelle is a designer with a focus on creating joyful digital experiences! She enjoys exploring the potential forms that an idea can express itself in and helping then take shape.

Geodessy

Artist: Michelle Yong

Michelle is a designer with a focus on creating joyful digital experiences! She enjoys exploring the potential forms that an idea can express itself in and helping then take shape.

Science Buddies

Artist: Ty Dale

From Canada, Ty was born in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1993. From his chaotic workspace he draws in several different illustrative styles with thick outlines, bold colours and quirky-child like drawings. Ty distils the world around him into its basic geometry, prompting us to look at the mundane in a different way.

Western Dinosaur

Artist: Ty Dale

From Canada, Ty was born in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1993. From his chaotic workspace he draws in several different illustrative styles with thick outlines, bold colours and quirky-child like drawings. Ty distils the world around him into its basic geometry, prompting us to look at the mundane in a different way.